ZL1/WL-074 Rangitukua, 20/04/2019

The Easter break found us again spending time at Lake Taupo and with the weather looking excellent through to late Easter Sunday I started thinking Saturday could be a good day to plan for an activation of Rangitukua, one of the yet to be activated summits nearby at the southern end of the lake.

A few other ZL’s were indicating they were likely to be activating on the day so it was looking like there could be some good summit to summit activity as a bonus.

The view from lake side.

From our location I could look across the southern end of the lake and see Rangitukua to the north west, the side that flanks the lake is not where you would plan to start your ascent, being very steep with cliffs dropping to near the lake edge, but the Northwest side facing away from the lake looked a far better proposition so I decided to go and check out access a few days prior to Saturday.

The little lakeside holiday town of Whareroa sits at the base of Rangitukua and I soon found where to get access by talking to the locals. The bush covered portion of Rangitukua is all scenic reserve land and is untracked but not too difficult to find your way to the summit, you will benefit from having a GPS though to get you right on target as there are no vantage points or views from the top to help pinpoint your position and it’s reasonably thick bush. The reserve is adjacent to private farm land and according to the locals the landowner doesn’t mind the public following the fence line (more or less) up to the point where the bush is entered.

The climb starts here, following the fence line up through Manuka and long grass.
Over this fence and heading for the top left corner of the paddock, at that point I enter the bush. It’s surprisingly hard going in the very long grass.
Bush entry point in the top corner of the afore mentioned paddock.

About half way through the bush section I discovered this great view point, I think many locals crash their way up to here but appear to go no higher.

The shack
On the summit, can you spot the antenna?

Rangitukua summit is 726m above sea level but Lake Taupo already sits roughly 360m above sea level so for 4 activation points its only 360m or so to climb to the top, not a big climb but steep in places and hard going in the long grassy section. After a little over an hour I arrived at the summit and soon got set up for the activation, not much clear room for the dipole inside the bush but it was soon threaded through the trees and up “good enough” and I was able to get started. With five other ZL’s now activating around the country I concentrated first on getting summit to summits logged with them all, that took a little over an hour to achieve. 60 meters worked well for S2S’s with ZL1BYZ, ZL2AJ and ZL4DVG, 40 meters provided the other two summit contacts with ZL2JML AND ZL1SKL.

Both ZL1BYZ and ZL2JML had their partners along on their activations and they are both licensed operators so it was good to get Jackie (ZL1WA) and Ada (ZL2ADA) in the log also.

I switched to 20 meters and couldn’t manage any contacts, just some weak CW was heard but unworkable. I made no VK contacts and moved back to 40 meters where I could only manage two more ZL’s on CW before packing up and working my way back down to Sarah waiting in some shade with a book down near the bottom. A good job the Zl’s were out in force otherwise it could have been a tough activation with the bands the way they were.

Back down through the grass

Summit – ZL1/WL-074 Rangitukua

Height – 726m Asl

Access – Drive to the very top of Turangitukua Terrace at Whareroa, knock on some doors and the locals will show you where to find the Stile over the fence at the back of some properties, roughly follow the fence/bush line up from here past the water reservoir and enter the bush in the very top left corner of the paddock and continue up to the summit.

Cell – internet – Wasn’t great with Vodafone, I had to move around to get enough signal to send spots. Other providers may be better.


ZL1/NL-062 Mt Tiger 04/01/2019

Our travels north to Cape Reinga for our summer holiday took us to Whangarei where we stayed for several days. I hadn’t really made any Sota plans for this area as we had limited spare time here, but as we came down the Brynderwyn hills looking north to Whangarei and Bream Head in the far distance I could tell that some of those impressive peaks would no doubt be Sota summits. Talking with Warren ZL2AJ he pointed out that we actually had a couple of nearby drive up ones worth checking out so we chose Mt Tiger, an easy drive up, about 20 minutes away from our camp at Manganese point.

One or two Sota summits up ahead as we come down the Brynderwyn Hills.

It was a very pleasant drive to the summit of Mt Tiger where there is a lay-by area beside the road and a fence line with handy posts to attach the pole to.

I was soon set up in the baking sun, we were often getting temperatures 30 degrees plus so far on this trip. It was a very nice summer for ZL!

Starting on 40 meters I soon realised this was not going to be the best band today as I could only manage one qso with Soren, ZL1SKL, switching to 20 meters I quickly got another two ZL’s and five Vk stations including a surprise S2S with VK1DI/P. The calls on 20 stopped so I moved to 15 meters and managed one more ZL, Jackie ZL1WA was good strong copy at my end. The heat was getting hard to tolerate and the calls had dried up so we called it quits and headed back down to camp for Lunch and a much needed swim.

The towel protects the radio gear from the heat.
Watch out for those power lines when setting up!

Summit – ZL1/NL-062 Mt Tiger

Height – 328m

Access – From Whangarei town proceed to Whareora Rd then turn right onto Mt Tiger Rd, follow to summit. Alternatively take the coastal route on Whangarei Heads Rd and at Parua Bay take Owhiwa Rd to Mt tiger rd and the summit.

Cell and Internet – Vodafone good signal, others should be the same.

ZL1/WK-036 Maroanui

New Years day roll over activation 2019

Our summer holiday this year put us at Lake Taupo over the new years period as we spent some time boating then slowly traveling north with camper in tow heading to the very top of the North island. Knowing an activation was in order for the new years UTC roll over I had previously organised drive up access to this handy summit and we booked a couple of nights nearby at a motor camp in the Wairakei geothermal area. We arrived at the camp early on new years day, quickly setup on our site then continued on a short distance up the highway to our destination. From the farm gate the drive up Maroanui takes only 15 minutes or so, perhaps add a little more time opening and closing the many gates and temporary electric fence barriers as this is a very busy working dairy farm. Although 897m above sea level the actual height gained from the farm gate to summit is only around 300m. On my last activation of Maroanui we ventured up the road in our little Corolla and that wasn’t ideal, so I was happy to be in the 4×4 this time making it an easy drive to the summit.

Looking to the east from the summit, there are not too many clear views from this one

Although the day started cloudy the sun was soon out and heating up nicely. Local hams had been up just prior to our visit carrying out work on the local repeater. The lawns were freshly mowed and the place looked very tidy.

The shack
The link dipole blends in nicely with all the other wires up here

It didn’t take long to get set up on the summit in the same location as my last activation there, using the handy concrete blocks at the fence line as my shack table. Activation wise I was soon making summit to summits with the other ZL’s activating around the country, the bands were (as is the norm lately) a little difficult for me, but for the morning session I managed six S2S, five of those were to ZL stations and the other was VK2IO, it would transpire that Gerard, VK2IO would be the only VK S2S I would have through the entire activation, such were the conditions for me on my summit that day. My ZL S2S’s were on 5MHz and 7MHz with the one VK on 21MHz as nothing could be heard on the 20 meter band from VK. After UTC roll over at 1.00pm ZL time I quite quickly bagged another four summit to summits with ZL stations, two of those were on 14MHz and one on 2meters with Warren ZL2AJ The other station, ZL3AB was on 7MHz. A good stream of VK chasers followed on 21MHz including my one and only CW QSO for the day, but any more summit to summits proved hard to find. Overall though, it was a rewarding and enjoyable day spent in a lovely location and the added bonus for myself was finally reaching “Shack Sloth” status on this day. Thank you to the chasers and activators on the day.

We packed up an hour and a half or so after roll over when it was apparent there were no more summit to summits to be had. We were soon back at camp and looking forward to continuing our adventure north the next day.

The shack
A mix of old and new buildings up here
Nice Christmas decorations from a previous visitor
The points gained on the day took me to Shack Sloth status

Summit – Maroanui – ZL1/WK-036

Height – 897m ASL

Access – Access permission can be requested through the local Ham radio branch and, if granted, there is a sign in and sign out procedure now in place on entering and exiting the farm. The road to the summit can be a little rough in places depending on recent weather conditions and is more suited to 4×4 or at least something with good ground clearance and traction. Your vehicle will inevitably leave here with lots of cow poo on its underside as its impossible to avoid! This would be an easy one to walk up if required.

Cell and internet – Good Vodafone reception, other providers should work ok as well.

ZL1/WL-151 November 14th 2018

 ZL1/WL-151 Is an un-named high point on a small, bumpy hill range that runs along the coast from Plimmerton in the south to Pukerua bay to the north. 

This was to be my second activation of this summit, always a bit risky midweek but with a perfect day forecast and some time to spare I was keen to get out in the sun for a bit and take whatever I got activation wise.

I had been practicing morse code for a while and had decided this activation would incorporate my first “live” attempt at this age old method. My sole reason for learning morse comes down to those difficult activations where I have missed out on making contacts through poor conditions (for ssb at least) and knowing morse code may have improved the outcome.

The climb starts here, a nice farm track takes you to the top.

The walk to the trig from the gate takes no more than an hour or so, it’s steepish in parts but worth the effort as when at the top the 360 degree views are fantastic, especially on a day like the one I chose. It would be very unpleasant on the top with nasty weather.

Kapiti Island to the north

Mana Island with the South Island in the distance
Plimmerton and Paramata to the south

After setting up at the trig it soon became clear that it would be a quiet activation with the poor band conditions of late continuing to make life hard. I had arranged with John, ZL1BYZ to try and be my first contact using CW, he was Motorhome touring somewhere in the South Island and had arranged to pull over somewhere and set up portable for the QSO, unfortunately we could not make contact on any of the usual bands including 60 meters so eventually we both conceded defeat there and gave up. Moving to 20 meters I quickly got that elusive first CW contact with another dependable VK station, VK2IO Gerard. There were a couple of other VK stations trying to chase me but they were coming and going in heavy QSB so I missed out on them, poor morse skills didn’t help the situation as well. Soon I got a S2S call from ZL4BEN on Mt Kaukau ZL1/WL-116, He and another Ben ZL2BCI were jointly activating this summit situated not far south of mine, so it was an easy copy with both of them on 20 meters ground wave between us. One more VK on 20 meters came my way but after him (VK4TJ) things really dried up so I moved to 15 meters for my second and last CW contact of the day with VK3PF Peter, then it was time to sit back and have some lunch, forget about radio and enjoy the views before packing up and heading back down. All in all a successful trip with much more morse practise required to become proficient but never the less another method I will be using into the future.

Summit – ZL1/WL-151

Height – 262m

Access – Situated on private land north of Wellington city and behind Plimmerton, you must ask permission for this one, access could be denied during lambing in spring time, shouldn’t be a problem at other times. Two seperate phone contacts required. Message me for details.

Cell phone/internet: Good Vodafone signal, other providers should be similar.

ZL1/WL-023 Mt Matthews 20/10/2018

Mount Matthews at 941m is the highest peak in the Remutaka ranges to the east of Wellington city, it is also the highest peak in the Wellington district, though this should not be confused with the SOTA designated WL area as it covers a far wider area encompassing the Tararua mountain range with its many higher peaks.


Viewed from the western side of the Hutt valley the prominent peak of Matthews to the east.

I had climbed Matthews in the past but this was before my induction to ham radio and my SOTA addiction so returning and activating this summit had been high on my priorities list for some time, I wanted to be first to knock this unique one off, and alerted by a remark from another Wellington ham I was aware it may not stay unactivated for ever so late last year I set off on my first attempt to activate it. My plan had been to walk to the private hut we use in the Orongorongo valley, overnight there, then activate the next day. Unfortunately the best plans sometimes don’t work out and I became very sick the night before the activation and spent the next 24 hours bed ridden in the hut with an awful stomach bug passed onto me by some of my darling grand children, so that attempt was shelved. Other things then started getting in the way as they do with a couple of tentative attempts through 2018 called off by bad weather and other factors.

A trip up Mount Matthews would normally start from the car park at Remutuka forest park, from there it’s a hike of one hour or so through bush and another hour walking up the Orongorongo riverbed to Matthews stream and then to the base of Matthews and the start of the steep ascent to the summit, adding another three to three and a half hours, thats a return trip of at least ten hours. It’s quite a hike doing it that way.

There are fifty or so private huts in the Orongorongo valley,  hut owners and caretakers are allocated drive in weekends through the year when DOC permits us to access the huts by 4×4 vehicles for hut maintenance etc. Labour weekend ( a three day holiday weekend in NZ) was one of those drive in’s and a good time for me to activate Matthews as I was already based at the hut and could drive up the riverbed to the base of Mount Matthews, thus knocking four hours or so off the normal return journey time.


We drove into the hut on Friday evening and got settled in for the long weekend. Sarah elected to stay back and enjoy the serenity at the hut on this occasion so on Saturday morning I was off on my own after breakfast and started the climb proper around 8.30am. Right from the start the climb is steep, in places like climbing a ladder using tree roots etc to pull yourself up, very occasionally there is a short flatish bit but mostly it’s just unrelenting steepness. I got to south saddle and had a well earned rest and recharged for the second stage of the climb to the summit. It was also time to get some more layers of clothing on as the wind was howling at this point and clearly I would be in cloud very soon. Getting a good view from a summit is usually an important component of the SOTA thing for me so it was disappointing to know that wouldn’t happen today but it was a case of now or never for this one as it could well be a while before everything falls into place to make it happen again.


Ready to start walking up Matthews stream for ten minutes to the track start.


Mt Matthews shrouded in cloud.


Those arrows give a good indication of the steepness ahead!


From South saddle looking down the Mukamuka valley.


From South saddle looking up the Orongorongo valley


Orongorongo valley from South saddle.

From South saddle the ascent is just as tough and the track deteriorates somewhat as the tree scape changes from lush lowland bush to more stunted “Goblin forest” like a scene from a Peter Jackson movie with lichen hanging everywhere, you know you’re getting higher up when this change happens in the New Zealand bush.


Looking up Matthews from South saddle, don’t be fooled, thats not the summit that can be seen, another 1Km or so of track to go.


Looking back to South saddle


Many slips everywhere you look.



On the summit, normally stunning views but today just grey cloud.

I arrived at the summit and as expected there were going to be no spectacular views today, just howling wind and grey cloud. On a good day the views from the summit are stunning.

Activation wise, I got set up pretty smartly just inside the bush a few meters back from the summit and slightly more sheltered from the wind. My first Qso was on two meters with a station from the Wairarapa, ZL2MM (line of sight more or less) then it was onto HF 40 meters with calls coming in from ZL chasers, John ZL1BYZ, Jackie ZL1WA and Warren ZL2AJ making up the four needed for the activation points. I tried chasing a ZL activator on a ZL3 summit but no luck there, so it was onto 20 meters where I could only raise two VK stations VK2IO and VK3ORH and ZL2MM once more. A likely reason for the lack of VK activity may have been due to the pending VK, ZL, EU summit to summit event planed for later that evening but for me staying up there into the dark hours was not an option. In any case it was proving to be pretty quiet all round, so after a one more 2 meter contact with ZL2JTD it was time to have some lunch and pack up for the equally tough descent and needless to say my legs were like jelly by the time I made it back to the truck parked a short way below Mount Matthews track.


typical NZ bush at 900m


I was pretty happy to have finally bagged this one and at the same time confirm I could still climb it after quite a few years! so I headed back to the hut for a shower and an ice cold Bourbon and coke (or two) to celebrate.


A welcome sight on returning.

Summit – Mt Matthews ZL1WL-023.  6 points 

Height – 941m

Access – From Remutaka forest park off Wainuiomata Coast rd, follow the signposted Orongorongo track to the river then proceed upstream to the Matthews stream junction, follow the orange triangular markers up Matthews stream to the track start point. Allow ten or more hours for the return trip and be prepared for less that perfect conditions at the summit.

Cell reception – Unreliable from Vodafone, unsure what other providers service would be like but likely to be similar. 

For more information on the Orongorongo valley and the unique situation of the private huts checkout orongorongoclub.org.nz

ZL3CC Memorial day 15/09/2018

Saturday 15th September 2018 was the date set aside for the ZL3CC memorial Sota day in memory of Andrew White, ZL3CC, who passed away suddenly earlier in the year. Andrew was an active participant in the NZ Sota scene up to his passing, his many Sota exploits can also be viewed here on his WordPress blog: ZL3CC.wordpress.com

My summit choice for the day was ZL1/WL-138 Lowry. It’s a nice handy summit for me, situated close to my QTH and easily accessible from a variety of different tracks that criss-cross the hills between the eastern side of Wellington harbour and Wainuiomata. It’s also proven after many activations to be surprisingly sheltered from the strong winds that were forecast on the day. I picked the Lees Grove track to get me to the summit on this trip, it’s a steep climb but the shortest route to the top taking 40 or so minutes of uphill slog.


Lees Grove track

On the way up through classic New Zealand bush, just the way I like it!

I was on site and setup by 11am and able to get in a couple of summit to summits before UTC rollover at 00.00z. There was a good turnout of ZL activators on the day but band conditions were not good for ZL summit to summits (for me anyway). Warren ZL2AJ and Kyle ZL3KGF were activating ZL1/TN-002 a nice Taranaki 8 pointer, but try as we might we could not make a S2S happen on any of the usual bands. 60 meters worked well for a couple of summit to summits with ZL1BYZ and ZL1WA and ZL3X was loud and clear on 40 meters from ZL3/CB-822, Other ZL activators were unworkable on 40 meters leaving the  VK stations to produce the contacts, notably including VK6NU/P situated in Western Australia. Some of the VK stations were hard work with 20 meters not being as flash as it could be but we got there in the end. All in all a worthwhile day with nine S2S contacts and a smattering of ZL and VK chasers joining in also. Things were dying down around 2pm so it was time to head back down and home.


The shack




The view from the tent and my simple coffee machine.


Summit – ZL1/WL-138 Lowry

Height – 373m

Access – From either Wainuiomata or the eastern bays of Wellington harbour many different tracks can be accessed to take you to this summit. Study a map and make your choice.

Cell reception – Yes, all providers should work well from this location.

ZL1/WL-101 Hawkins Hill 30/07/2018

Hawkins Hill sits on Wellingtons south coast to the west of the harbour entrance. The prominent radar dome on the summit can be seen from many places around the city and at 495m the 360 degree views are pretty impressive with the city and Hutt valley to the north and the top of the south island easily visible to the south and west. To the east Baring head and the Remutaka ranges look impressive.


From the car park the summit and radar dome in the distance

Access is easy, from the carpark directly under the Brooklyn wind turbine the walk on a sealed road takes roughly 35 to 45 minutes depending on your pace and is no more than a 200m vertical climb overall. The road is shared with other walkers, cyclists and a surprising amount of vehicles for a private road.

Wellingtons relentless winter weather and other life events had put my Sota adventures on hold for a month or so and with the possibility of the pesky overnight southerly dying out and a brief change to sunshine and light breezes it was a good day to get out and knock this one off.


Not a difficult walk, Karori wildlife sanctuary fence runs parallel to the road in many places


Wellington harbour and the wind turbine as I look back from where I came


The harbour and Remutaka ranges beyond. Many Sota summits in or just under those clouds


A good area for all things communication related


Getting closer


A rather odd feature on the road near the summit is this Luxury dog stay accomodation


On the summit




No wind meant this time I could operate at the trig.


Activation wise I was not expecting to break any records on a Monday and it was slow going at first with no takers on 40 meters. A shift to 20 soon got me the required amount of Qso’s with VK stations and a couple of Zl’s also found their way into the log, so I was happy after that to have some lunch and take in the views before packing up and heading back down.



Outlook hill, another Sota summit (no access allowed) over to the west with the Marlborough sounds in the far distance



Baring head and the Remutaka ranges to the east


Summit – ZL1/WL-101 Hawkins Hill

Height – 495m

Access – From the suburb of Brooklyn follow the signposts to the wind turbine, from the carpark follow the private road to the summit, 35 to 45 min approximately. Walking and cycling access permitted.

Access can be had from several other tracks near or on the south coast but you would be ascending the full 495m and times would be longer.

Cell and internet – Yes but signal is not strong with Vodafone. Others have activated this summit with no cell issues.




ZL1/WL-105 04/05/2018

Situated on farmland overlooking Cook strait, the Orongorongo valley and Wellington harbour, ZL1/WL-105 is an un-named 477m summit that is quite handy to my QTH, about a fifteen minute drive from home gets me to its base at the end of Wainuiomata’s Coast road. Thats the easy bit as the 4×4 farm road to the top is a fairly steep climb for most of the way. I often drive to this summit and beyond with my local 4×4 club on club trips, this was the first time I had walked up and in doing so I quickly gained a greater appreciation for the effort saved by a good 4×4 with low range.

I had been intending to activate this one for a while, but having gained permission from the land owners some time ago other things had got in the way for a while, also, it was important to have the right weather on the day for this one as nine days out of ten it can be blowing a gale down on the coast, thus making any high point a very unpleasant place to be.

A few posts on Facebook to alert ZL and Vk Sota enthusiasts provided a chance for a couple of summit to summits on the day with John ZL1BYZ and David VK2NU/P jointly activating with Tony VK2WFT, not a bad show for a week day.



Looking back to the car parked on the coast rd, the climb begins.


On the day an uneventful climb of around an hour and a half got me to the top in sunshine and as there was almost no breeze this meant I could set up right on the very exposed summit and take in the great 360 degree views while activating. John ZL1BYZ on ZL1/WK-158 was first up with a summit to summit on 60 meters, not long after that another 20 meter S2S with David VK2NU/P and Tony VK2WFT on VK2/HU-047 then a few more VK’s finished the activation off. I was unable to raise anyone on 40 and 15, probably just a combination of poor conditions and lack of week day chasers. After some lunch it was time to head back down.



Looking east to Turakarai head as I climb.




Nice views from the old airstrip at 200m



From the airstrip looking up toward the summit.


Panorama ZL1:WL-105

The view north with Orongorongo valley down to the right and Wellington harbour to the far left.



The Orongorongo station houses visible down in the valley.






The shack.




Summit – ZL1/WL-105

Height – 477m

Access – On private farmland. Contact Orongorongo station to ask for permission.

Cell and internet – Close proximity to Wellington means all services work well.






ZL1/WK-055 (Ngangautu) 22/04/2018

Ngangautu (ZL1/WK-055) is situated at the northern end of Lake Taupo, it’s the highest point on a ridge that has the lakeside holiday town of Kinloch down below on it’s western side and the beautiful Whakaipo bay to the east. The summit gives commanding views in all directions, well worth a visit even if Sota is not your thing.


Lake Taupo to the south.

The April school holidays had arrived and we were able to spend some time at Lake Taupo. We normally holiday at the southern end of the lake and rarely go to Taupo township but this time we had been invited to a Teardrop camper gathering at one of the Taupo motor camps over the weekend.  Ngangautu had been on my activators radar for a while and this was my chance while we were up that way. Although the weekend would be busy with the Teardrop group we planed to give the activation a go on the Sunday afternoon before heading back to the southern end of the lake. I had been told by locals in the past that it was ok to just walk up there and no need to ask permission, but on arrival at the road end the signs on the entry gate to the farm were less than welcoming and when we approached the owner of the neighbouring property we were kindly given a phone number to call but warned it was likely we would be refused entry due to people entering without permission, leaving gates open etc etc. From my experience around the lake it can be hard or impossible to gain access to private land for various reasons so we were pleasantly surprised to be granted access to this one and as an unexpected bonus we were given drive on permission thus saving a walk of a couple of K’s, but with camper in tow we proceeded with caution along the farm road to a point where it was prudent to park up and continue on foot, we had gained a good 200m or so of elevation though, so from our parking spot I only had a vertical climb of around 100m to the summit. Sarah decided to stay with the camper and I was soon on my way and at the summit within half an hour.




The summit within sight and I’m walking from here. 700m ASL at this point.


Sarah makes my lunch to take to the top.


On my way.


At the summit in sunshine and light breezes I was soon set up and calling CQ on 40 meters but only managed to get three Zl’s on that band so eventually moved to 20 and was able to work six Vk’s and one US station (NW7E) and another three Vk’s on 15 meters. A couple of VK’s had also popped up on summits although I had seen no alerts for them prior to leaving for my summit so I spent some time trying to get summit to summits to happen but was unsuccessful. Warren ZL2AJ was also trying for a 2 meter QSO with me from his QTH but although he could copy me I could not hear his calls at all. After roughly an hour and a quarter it was time to pack up and head back down, a good activation and a nice summit to visit.


ZL1/WK-026 Tauhara looks over Taupo township in the distance.


From near the top, Kinloch to the west.


Whakaipo bay.



Lots happening communication wise on this summit.



Summit – ZL1/WK-055 Ngangautu

Height – 794m

Access – Ngangautu is situated on private farmland and entry is by permission of the land owner and is never guaranteed, contact me for contact details, entry without permission risks places like this being shut off for good. The property entrance is situated about 15 minutes drive to the west of Taupo township. It would be possible to drive a 4×4 with low range gears to the summit if permission was gained to do so, but it could get pretty slippery when wet and care would be required.

Cell and internet – Vodafone- yes, other providers should also have good service.



ZL3/MB-169 Mount Stokes 29/12/2017

The time for our planed holiday, camping around the top of the South Island, had arrived and our first stop over was a Department of conservation campsite at Kenepuru head in the Malborough sounds. There are many Sota summits throughout the sounds, lots of them are a challenge to access. The start point of the popular Mount Stokes track from our location was only half an hours drive away by unsealed road and being the highest peak in the sounds at 1203m it was well worth making the effort to climb it while so close.


Base camp at Kenepuru head. Not an ugly place.

We set off from our campsite around 9.00am in the morning expecting to be on the track by around 9.30. The weather was sunny but the cold southerly breeze that had been blowing for days over most of the country was still persisting and causing cloud to form around the tops of the nearby high peaks, before we could see Mount Stokes we expected the summit might be in some cloud and on rounding a corner and getting our first glimpse we could see our prediction was correct.


Pesky cloud hangs around the tops

In a perfect world all my Sota activations would be on sunny, not too hot, cloudless days, who wouldn’t want that? but our travel plans dictated that today it was a case of now or never for this summit. Mount Stokes is renowned for the views it affords from the summit, on a clear day in any direction the views are stunning so all we could hope for was some clearing of cloud around the summit when up there.


The start of the track.

We were soon at the carpark and start of the track. There were already several cars parked and we were to come across half a dozen other groups throughout the day. For the first 1km or so the track climbs very little but this is not a groomed and well maintained route, there is a labyrinth of tree roots and large rocks to navigate around, and over, for most of track. Once the climb starts at Okoha saddle it’s a steep unrelenting ascent to the top with much of the time spent winding over, around and through those roots and rock formations.


Quite a rugged track.


Through the trees near the start, Anakoha bay and Forsyth island to the north

At around the 800m mark Sarah decided this was just a little too much of a climb for her so we discussed our options and agreed I would continue on and she would wait at that point, slightly off track in a nice sheltered spot we found. While waiting she had a book to read and would be in radio contact with me throughout via PRS. This was another one of those locations where cell signal was marginal even though you felt like you were on top of the world and would expect great coverage.

So onwards I went and in another hour or so I made it to the open tops that were by now even more enveloped in cloud but with the occasional break giving me brief snapshots of those famous views. From there it was a short walk to the trig where I found shelter for my activation behind one of the repeater buildings.

Mount Stokes December 2017 Panorama

A break in the cloud gives a view north. On a perfect day Mount Taranaki can be seen.


Looking the opposite way to the photo above, somewhere in the mist is the summit.


Many layers of clothing required at the summit while less than 50m below is a clear sunny day.


The trig at 1203m has seen better days.


My shack, strengthened with wire cables anchored to the ground for those extra big wind gusts.


The shack in the lee of the radio shed.


A quick glimpse of Endeavour inlet. We drove up through that farmland down to the right from our camp site at Kenepuru sound.

Activation wise the trip was a success with 19 contacts in all. The very unreliable cell signal forced me to rely on other ZL’s to spot for me (thanks guys!) and starting on 40 I quickly had my four contacts to qualify and then a few more ZL’s and onto 20 for a good stream of VK’s. Switching to 15 meters I immediately heard a very weak call from a station starting with “K” so it was on with the head phones and after lots of work exchanging the necessary details I had K0RS in the log, Larry from Colorado. Four more VK’s on 15 and it was time to think about packing up and getting back down out of the cloud and a rendezvous with Sarah on the way. As usual, going down was equally as painful on all the leg muscles as going up can be. It was a slow descent dodging roots and rocks all the way and we were both pretty worn out on reaching the car but it wasn’t long before we were back at camp relaxing.


Summit – ZL3/MB-169 Mount Stokes

Height – 1203m

Access – From Picton drive down Queen Charlotte Drive as far as Linkwater. From Linkwater, turn into Kenepuru Road which you should follow as far as the head of Kenepuru Sound, approximately 41k’s. From the head of Kenepuru Sound, turn on to Titirangi Road. Follow the road as far as Okoha Saddle, where you begin the walk.

Public Transport – It is possible to access Mt Stokes by taking a water taxi from Picton to Endeavor Inlet and beginning your walk from the Antimony Mines track, however this makes a very long day walk and should only be attempted by very fit walkers.

Cell and internet – Vodafone was very unreliable, unsure if other providers would be any better, probably not.

Many North and south island repeaters are workable from this summit.